Holocaust Remembrance Day Quotes: Eight Tributes to Nazi Victims

Holocaust Remembrance Day, also known by its Hebrew name Yom HaShoah, is on Thursday and is a time meant for reflection of the events of the Holocaust, which killed millions of Jews in systematic and cruel ways.

Under the direction of German Führer Adolf Hitler, the Nazis controlled large sections of Europe during World War II and operated numerous death camps. Six million Jews were methodically murdered, as well as hundreds of thousands of Roma, homosexuals, disabled people, political opponents and other victims. These people were shot, starved, gassed and tortured.

Yom HaShoah typically falls on the Hebrew calendar on the 27th of the month Nisan, which this year translates to April 12. Like many Jewish holidays, the day of remembrance begins at sunset on the evening before.

To remember those who were lost, here are some quotes about the Holocaust, from victims, survivors and observers of the horrors.

1. “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”

Anne Frank wrote this in her diary, which would later be published as The Diary of a Young Girl, one of the most famous published diaries in modern history. She kept it while she and her family were hiding in an attic—often referred to as a “secret annex”—in Amsterdam during the Netherlands’ period of Nazi occupation. After more than two years, the group was discovered and sent to the Auschwitz death camp.

2. “In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit.”

This was also written by Frank. Her father Otto, who was the lone survivor of the eight people who were hiding in the annex, published his daughter’s diary after the war ended. Anne Frank died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

3. “For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel wrote this in his memoir, Night, which described his experiences in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. Wiesel was a teenager at that time and was imprisoned with his father, who died before liberation.

auschwitz-gate The Nazis murdered 6 million Jews and many others during the Holocaust, including at concentration camps like Auschwitz in Poland, shown above. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

4. “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.”

This is another quote from Wiesel, which he made as he accepted a Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

5. “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Martin Niemöller, a Lutheran pastor from Germany, wrote this in a poem that first became popular in the 1950s. He also made speeches with similar language. The pastor had started out as an anti-Communist supporter of Adolf Hitler but later opposed the Nazis. He spent several years in concentration camps during the Holocaust.

6. “For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.”

Simon Wiesenthal, a death camp survivor and the most well-known of the “Nazi hunters” who searched for Holocaust perpetrators to bring them to justice, said this. He helped track down hundreds of Nazis and collaborators.

7. “For your benefit, learn from our tragedy. It is not a written law that the next victims must be Jews. It can also be other people. We saw it begin in Germany with Jews, but people from more than twenty other nations were also murdered.”

Wiesenthal also said this, in a 1983 interview with Penthouse Magazine.

8. “The things I saw beggar description. … The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where [there] were piled up 20 or 30 naked men, killed by starvation, [General] George Patton would not even enter. He said he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda.’”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote this in an April 1945 letter to General George C. Marshall, the chief of staff of the U.S. Army, after a trip to a concentration camp in Germany during World War II. Back then, Ike Eisenhower was a general leading the United States.

There is a popular quote on this subject often attributed to Eisenhower and, while it also speaks to his desire to prevent people from denying the events of the Holocaust, it is unclear whether he ever actually expressed it in this manner. That quote is, “Get it all on record now—get the films, get the witnesses—because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.”

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